KIND Award Recipient Ted Brechbill

The Alabama and Mississippi Region proudly announces its monthly recipient of the KIND Award: a volunteer that is K(knowledgeable) I(involved) N(notable) D(dedicated). For the month of May, our award winner is Ted Brechbill representing the North Mississippi Chapter.

Ted serves in multiple roles within Disaster Cycle Services. He is a member of the Disaster Action Team. He also works with Disaster Assessment, Disaster Emergency Services and serves as the Coordinator for Disaster Spiritual Care.  He has served with the Red Cross for five years.

Ted began volunteering with the Red Cross to give back to his community.  He proudly admits that the Red Cross was his service organization of choice!  Ted has served in numerous disaster responses and deployments. His most notable Red Cross experience was deploying to Puerto Rico.

When Ted is not wearing his many volunteer hats within the Red Cross, he enjoys  riding motorcycles and fishing.

He is retired from the United States Coast Guard where he served on a  helicopter rescue team, as a firefighter, and developed courses for  a corporate university.

KC Grist, Executive Director for the North Mississippi Chapter states: Ted is always on “ready” when we need him.  He responds to fire calls and is always ready to deploy as needed.  During the recent tornados in North Mississippi, Ted not only did his share of the Disaster Assessment but allowed me to accompany him. He taught indicators of what to look for while doing disaster assessment.  Most importantly, he stressed the importance of talking to people.  “They’ve been through a hard time, and they need us”, he said.  “Even if we are not able to provide direct services to them, they can know that we care.”  He even went back and did a repeat disaster assessment on a home that received damage but was not classified as “major.” He took me with him, and we met with the landlord, who was also the lady’s pastor.  He patiently explained why the damage did not meet FEMA standards for assistance from Red Cross.  He listened.  By the time we left, the pastor had a better understanding of not only why we couldn’t help, but the understanding that Ted cared about him, his property and his tenant.

On behalf of the Alabama and Mississippi Region, congratulations Ted for being selected as the May recipient of the KIND Award.  We appreciate your service and dedication to the Red Cross mission!

American Red Cross: For 140 years a benefit

By Leesha Faulkner

It’s hard to imagine the American Red Cross celebrates 140 years. And, in some measure, the Red Cross has been there every time you turn around – even here in Lee County.

A little background, first. Clara Barton was 59 years old in 1881 when she organized what would become the American Red Cross. She worked in U.S. government when the Civil War broke out. She realized, after much bandage rolling and support, that soldiers needed help on battlefields, so she went. That’s how she became the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

But it was a trip to Europe after the Civil War, where she learned of the Geneva, Switzerland-based Red Cross and its clarion for international agreements to protect the sick and wounded as a result of war. She became aware of the national societies that gave volunteer aid. She brought home the notion, and for 23 years served as the leader of the American Red Cross.

Mississippi received the benefits of her knowledge and expertise just two years after she created the agency. In April 1883, a deadly tornado struck rural Copiah County, killing many and wounding even more. A series of letters and telegraphs in storage among her papers at the Library of Congress demonstrate her ability to marshal people and resources to the region.

In 1917, about seven years after Barton’s death, Lee County organized its Red Cross chapter. And what a history!

We are familiar with the tornado of 1936. The day after that Palm Sunday in April, the American Red Cross rolled into Tupelo to set up a feeding station at the American Legion. They fed 4,000 people in a single day. Injured people who could not afford hospitalization, but required being sent to a hospital in Memphis or somewhere in Mississippi, didn’t have to worry. The Red Cross paid for those expenses. Those less injured received assistance at a Red Cross First Aid station staffed with four nurses, paid for by Red Cross donations.

Representatives of the state and national Red Cross offices negotiated with railroad companies to establish a “boxcar city” in town that would provide shelter for those without housing. Thirty disaster workers and a building adviser were on hand to assist with the rebuilding.

By November of that year, Lee County had the largest Red Cross enrollment of subscriptions – about 4,000 – for any Mississippi county. The Clarion Ledger chastised Hinds County folk for lagging behind. Hinds County had more people and had benefitted, especially when the Pearl River flooded, to lead the way. But, no, Lee County dug deep.

Three years later about 200 people from 24 counties in North and East Mississippi gathered at the Tupelo Country Club to honor those who had volunteered.

The Northeast Mississippi Chapter of the Red Cross continued its work. Not soon forgotten in more recent history, the response to a fire that took out four apartments in Tupelo in 1996 on Dec. 22, leaving families without anything. The local Red Cross assisted and the volunteer spirit – the Tupelo Spirit – kicked in.

In August 2005 when Katrina wreaked havoc on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Patty Tucker and her volunteers set up cots, meals, telephones, and internet at the BancorpSouth Arena. Three hundred people took solace there. The unit kept the shelter open until October.

In 2014, when a tornado raked through Tupelo, the local chapter helped with volunteer events, joining with the United Way in ensuring recovery efforts ran smoothly.

In 2015, the local Red Cross with approval from national awarded Sihya Smith its highest lifesaving award, acknowledgement of Smith using her skills as a lifeguard – another Red Cross program – to save a 60-year-old woman who had passed out in the pool at the Tupelo Aquatic Center.

Just as recently as two weeks ago, after tornadoes and thunderstorms had ripped through our area, the local chapter’s executive director K.C. Grist began assembling volunteers and going door-to-door to help assess damages and check on those who had remained in their homes.

So, Red Cross, happy anniversary. We in Tupelo are proud of your story. We appreciate the masks your volunteers donated to veterans, the lessons in how to protect ourselves from fire and storm, the first aid courses, and that your volunteers are always there to serve.

Leesha Faulkner is curator of the Oren Dunn City Museum. She may be reached at

EVERYDAY HEROES: Jeremy Westmoreland

Everyday Heroes is a new series featuring outstanding local American Red Cross volunteers who take giving back to their community to a whole new level. This month we’re highlighting Jeremy Westmoreland, founder and chair of the Young Professionals Board (YP Board).

Based in Huntsville, AL, Jeremy has been hard at work helping the Red Cross with disaster response, arranging feeding/sheltering agreements and leveraging both his and his organization’s expertise to appeal to a younger blood donor audience.

Portrait: Jeremy Westmoreland

Jeremy’s work with the Red Cross doesn’t end there though. Recently, through his joint efforts with the Service to the Armed Forces division (SAF), Jeremy was able to secure wish list items, including iPads and computers for the residents of the Tut Fann Veterans Home in Huntsville.

Dedicated to serving our troops, the SAF helps military members and their families by providing critical services and comforts from home to veterans in military hospitals around the world and by offering assistance to their family after their service ends.

Jeremy’s initiative and dedication to members of his community and our troops, make us proud to feature him as the first of many Everyday Heroes.

To find out how you can become an everyday hero and make a difference in your community, visit and find a role that suits you!

Written by: David Rauch / American Red Cross